Monday Briefing

World Health Organization leader warns that antibiotic resistance could mean “the end of modern medicine as we know it.” At a conference in Copenhagen last week, the WHO’s director general, Dr. Margaret Chan, said hospitals have become “hotbeds for highly resistant pathogens,” a development “increasing the risk that hospitalization kills instead of cures.” Already, she added, diseases such as tuberculosis are becoming harder and more expensive to treat. Eventually, Chan warned, “Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.” The development of new antibiotics now could help stave off catastrophe but few drug makers are willing to make the investment. ABC News

Whistleblower calls for BP to shut down its Atlantis platform in the Gulf of Mexico. The whistleblower, Kenneth Abbott, first complained in 2009, a year before BP’s devastating Macondo blowout, that the company failed to keep required design records of safety mechanisms onboard the Atlantis. In a hearing in federal court today, however, Abbott’s lawyer said the Atlantis, BP’s second-biggest oil producer in the gulf, poses not just a record-keeping problem but an imminent hazard. The lawyer said that a pressure-relief valve protecting a 16-inch pipeline connecting Atlantis to shore “is undersized by a factor of 20 to 1,” and a failure “could cause catastrophe at any time.” Bloomberg, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayne

Indian government strikes back against an anti-nuclear movement. When villagers from a southern fishing hamlet questioned the safety of the nearby Kudankulam nuclear power plant, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh responded by accusing U.S. and Scandinavian civic groups of funding the protests to hold back India’s development. Government officials also initiated an investigation of the finances of church and rural charities, alleging that the groups were illegally diverting to protests funds meant for orphans and anti-leprosy programs. Los Angeles Times

Obama administration may delay new smog rules. The restrictions would require refiners to make cleaner-burning gasoline and auto makers to build cars that emit fewer smog-forming emissions. But the rules also could bring higher prices at the pump, triggering political opposition. The Environmental Protection Agency was scheduled to roll out the rules before April, but it hasn’t yet submitted them for White House review. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a recent letter to lawmakers that the standards would raise the cost of gas by only one penny a gallon if implemented in 2017, but an industry calculation based on an earlier smog plan said the increase could be as much as 25 cents a gallon. The Wall Street Journal 

Brazilian judge bars 17 executives of Chevron Corp.and Transocean Ltd. from leaving the country. The order was signed by the federal judge last week as part of an investigation into a 3,000-barrel oil spill off Rio de Janeiro in November. The leak at Chevron’s $3.6 billion Frade field occurred as Brazil is increasing scrutiny of deepwater drilling following the 2010 BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which was about 1,630 times bigger. Brazilian lawmakers have criticized Chevron for the spill, although one academic oil expert said authorities “took this out of proportion,” adding, “It’s far from the coast and it’s a small volume.” Transocean owned the rig involved in the spill. Bloomberg

Natural gas is considered a clean energy source, but heat-trapping methane is released when the fuel is extracted. The net impact of natural gas on climate change hinges largely on a question that hasn’t been clearly answered: How much methane escapes when gas is extracted by the controversial gas drilling practice known as fracking? When burned, natural gas emits about half the heat-trapping carbon dioxide as coal. Yet methane, the primary component of natural gas, is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The Environmental Defense Fund plans to work with energy companies to better measure the emissions. McClatchy Newspapers

Tobacco shops featuring roll-your-own cigarette machines are spreading across the country. Hundreds have opened since 2009, when Congress raised taxes on tobacco products but imposed a much smaller increase on pipe tobacco than cigarette tobacco. To exploit that tax gap, the shops typically sell leaves labeled “pipe tobacco” for the roll-your-own cigarettes. The tobacco and convenience store industries are lobbying to eliminate the loophole, and a bill passed by the Senate last week would treat retailers making roll-your-own machines available to customers the same as mainstream cigarette manufacturers. The Wall Street Journal

Recalls: Backroad Country Caramel Puffcorn, 7-Eleven grilled chicken wrapsBrilliant Blue G eye surgery compound

Compiled by Stuart Silverstein

Print Print  

Leave a comment